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Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford: Zaha outshines Richarlison as Hornets ill-discipline strikes again

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Crystal Palace moved out of the relegation zone for the first time this campaign as two late goals earnt Roy Hodgson’s side a dramatic victory against ten-man Watford at Selhurst Park on Tuesday night.

Daryl Janmaat’s opener inside three minutes made it seem like a long evening was ahead for the hosts, finding space at the back-post to fire home a header after some neat work from Richarlison out wide.

Marco Silva’s side had numerous chances to double their advantage either side of the break, with Troy Deeney first skewing a shot wide of the mark from just six-yards out with the goal at his mercy before Richarlison’s strike from inside the area was expertly blocked by Julian Speroni’s legs.

And it looked like the visitors were comfortably heading for three points until the match turned on its head in the dying moments, sparked by Tom Cleverley’s dismissal for a late lunge on Jeffrey Schlupp.

Substitute Bakary Sako bundled in from close range for Palace in the last minute of normal time before James McArthur popped up inside the area in the 92nd minute to lift the roof right off of Selhurst Park.

The three points – gained in the most dramatic circumstances – see Palace rise up and out of the relegation spots for the first time this season into 17th in the table, whilst Watford remain in ninth.

Palace turn it around late on

On September 12, Roy Hodgson took charge of Crystal Palace with the Eagles rock bottom of the Premier League table, devoid of confidence, sitting on 0 points and simply struggling to find the back of the net.

On December 12, Palace lifted themselves out of the relegation zones for the first time this season.

It’s a remarkable turnaround in such a short space of time led by a man that many Crystal Palace supporters labelled a laughable appointment, and it’ll go a long way to keeping his big critics quiet.

For long periods of Tuesday’s encounter it looked like it wouldn’t be Palace’s night, with Hodgson’s side struggling to test Heurelho Gomes whilst Watford spurned a number of chances to extend their advantage.

Yet at 1-0 they were always in the game, and as soon as Tom Cleverley was given his marching orders late on there was a new sense of urgency to the way that Palace pushed players forward.

The character and drive on show in those final few minutes was a stark contrast to where Palace were when Hodgson took on the job and it’s testament to the mentality instilled by their manager.

There’s still an awful long way to go until May, and there will no doubt be a few ups and downs around Selhurst Park between now and then, but Palace look like a team determined to battle for their survival.

Zaha outshines Richarlison

One person at the heart of Crystal Palace’s efforts was the enigma that is Wilfried Zaha.

If there was ever a match to summarise just how frustrating the 25-year-old can be then it was this one, failing to provide any meaningful contribution for 88 minutes until turning into a match-winner.

Throughout Zaha’s entire career he’s been tarred with the same brush, being clever and willing to drive at defenders in solid build-up play before falling short when it comes to finding an end product.

And it seemed that that would be the story on Tuesday night again as despite all of his endeavours and efforts in the final third Palace failed to have a shot on target until the 85th minute. That was, until he produced two pieces of inspiration in a matter of minutes in the most unlikely of victories.

Out of nowhere he became irrepressible, firing in a fierce low drive that could only be parried into Sako’s path, before he created the winner himself by bamboozling Janmaat with some tricky footwork down the left-hand side and bursting into the area, feeding McArthur to deftly slot home.

It’s not often that a player can outshine Watford’s new Brazilian wonderkid Richarlison but that’s exactly what Zaha managed to do, and now the emphasis is on the need for him to find consistency.

Watford’s ill-discipline proves costly again

Another week, another red card.

It was an all-too familiar story for Watford once again on Tuesday night as the Hornets’ prominent ill-discipline reared its ugly head, ultimately costing them some points for the second time in a week.

On Saturday it was Marvin Zeegelaar who saw red for a rash challenge, with Burnley capitalising on their man advantage just minutes later, and this time around it was Tom Cleverley’s turn to see red.

His dismissal in the 87th minute sparked a dramatic finale at Selhurst Park and condemned the Hornets to a fourth Premier League game without a win against a team they should have beaten.

It also signalled the eighth red card that Watford have received since the start of the 2016-17 season, more than any other top-flight club, and it’s now a real problem that they have to address.

Whilst there was no disputing Cleverley’s challenge on Jeffrey Schlupp that earnt him a second yellow, Watford boss Marco Silva believed that the hosts should have had a red card of their own shortly before when Patrick van Aanholt’s tackle from behind on Roberto Pereyra went unpunished.

There’s certainly an argument for the Palace man being sent-off but, either way, Watford should have had the intelligence and mettle to see out the remaining few minutes and kept the hosts out.

Instead, the Hornets will be left ruing their ill-discipline and wondering what could have been again.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha should resist move away from Selhurst Park

The Ivorian winger has been key for the Eagles this season.

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Wilfried Zaha
Photo: Getty Images

Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha delivered yet another superb performance this weekend, scoring a crucial brace in Palace’s 3-2 win against Brighton.

In typical fashion, following his impressive showing, many have speculated that Zaha is far too good for this Palace team and should depart Selhurst Park in the summer.

However, Zaha should resist such urges and remain at Palace, where he will shine in the spotlight as their main man and bring top-half success to the Eagles.

The most recent rumours in the Times have linked the Ivorian with a switch to Tottenham Hotspur, but his 2013 transfer to Manchester United should prove a convincing deterrent against the move to north London.

Five years ago, Zaha swapped Palace for the allure of United, eager to become a star for the Red Devils. He signed a five-and-a-half-year deal at Old Trafford, but his time in Manchester was an abject failure.

The winger only made two league appearances for United, registering zero goals, before falling out of favour with David Moyes and being loaned out to Cardiff City. Just a season later, he was back at Crystal Palace.

(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

This big money debacle reveals that Zaha struggles when inserted into a situation where he is not a guaranteed starter. His game thrives off of confidence, trickery, and flair; it is no coincidence his best years have come at Palace, a club that genuinely loves and appreciates him.

And, it seems the feeling is mutual.

Zaha prominently spoke this week about his intense desire to beat Brighton and silence their supporters, illustrating the winger’s cult status and loyalty to the Eagles.

For the 25-year-old, the perfect decision would be to remain at Selhurst Park this summer. Roy Hodgson will be given funds to shape the team in his image, and could easily reproduce his success at Fulham, where he inspired the Whites to a seventh-placed finish and a Europa League final.

With Zaha leading the way as the star man, the ceiling could be the limit next season for the Eagles.

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Could Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic be the perfect man for Crystal Palace?

The Croatian striker scored twice in Juventus’ Champions League win over Real Madrid.

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Mario Mandzukic
Photo: Getty Images

31-year-old Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic turned back the clock on Wednesday night with a remarkable two-goal display against defending European champions Real Madrid.

If Crystal Palace maintain their Premier League status, then Mandzukic could prove the perfect man to solve their striker problems.

In the days leading up to the match, reports in Italian outlet Tuttosport, as referenced by Football Italia and Goal in Germanyhad linked the Croatian striker with a transfer to the Chinese Super League, claiming that Juventus were prepared to let him leave in the summer.

Yet the experienced striker has shown he still possesses the quality to perform at the highest level, evidenced by his dominating quarterfinal display. Two first-half towering headers revealed the forward’s predatory instincts, ability to latch on to crosses, and knack for powerful finishes.

A move to China, in essence still a glorified amateur league, would represent a dramatic step down for Mandzukic far too soon in his career. Only in his early 30s, the striker still has a number of productive seasons left in the tank and can adapt his game to accommodate his age.

Mario Mandzukic

His arrival at Selhurst Park would fill the gap that the Eagles have had at centre-forward for a number of years. The misfiring Christian Benteke has failed to impress this term, passing up many a golden opportunity.

Mandzukic would add a lethal touch to the multitude of crosses Roy Hodgson’s side tend to swing in, benefiting from Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha’s wicked deliveries.

Although the transfer may appear ridiculous, to begin with, Palace have a proud recent history of signing players from Europe’s top clubs. Yohan Cabaye joined from Paris Saint Germain, Mamadou Sakho and Benteke joined from Liverpool, and Jairo Riedewald was brought in from Ajax.

The acquisition of Mandzukic would be a brilliant coup for the Eagles and propel them to the upper half of the table next season.

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Crystal Palace

£28 million difference, but Crystal Palace would much prefer Glenn Murray

Christian Benteke has flopped at Crystal Palace this season, with just two goals compared to Murray’s 13 with Brighton.

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Crystal Palace suffered defeat at the hands of Liverpool in the Premier League yesterday, in what was a tight affair. A late goal from Mohamed Salah proved the difference, as Liverpool claimed a 2-1 victory. If only a former Liverpool player could have had a better day at the office, Palace might have taken all three points.

Christian Benteke’s poor form continued for the Eagles. He missed two golden opportunities to score in a game where the margins were considerably fine. The exasperation in team-mate Wilfried Zaha’s face made it clear what he felt of the Belgian’s wastefulness.

Palace fans are probably wishing they had a much less heralded and much cheaper former striker up front instead of Benteke.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – MARCH 04: Glenn Murray of Brighton and Hove Albion during the Premier League match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Arsenal at Amex Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Whilst yesterday was not his best day, Glenn Murray has been outstanding for rivals Brighton and Hove Albion this season. The 34-year-old has scored 13 goals in 34 games for the Seagulls this season. Benteke meanwhile has just two in 26 – an abysmal record for a striker with his price-tag.

Palace paid a fee in the region of £32 million to bring the Belgian to Selhurst Park back in 2016, as reported by Sky Sports. A year previously Palace had sold Murray to Bournemouth in a £4 million deal, according to BBC Sport. A difference of £28 million which, quite frankly, is laughable considering the comparable seasons of the pair.

Looking back with hindsight it is easy to see that Palace should have kept hold of Murray that summer. Now back with Brighton he has been a phenomenon this season whilst Benteke, at times, has been a phantom.

during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England.

If Palace had the chance to trade them right now for the relegation run-in, make no mistake, the £32 million striker would be sent packing his bags down the M23 to Sussex.

Palace need the Belgian to start firing if they are going to survive an extremely tight looking relegation battle in the Premier League. He does not need to look far for inspiration. If Benteke can find anything near the form Murray has exhibited this campaign, then Palace will have no trouble staying up whatsoever.

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